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Turning the Tide for Tigers


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Alan Rabinowitz, the biologist who heads Panthera, a group fighting to save the last wild cats, wrote this "postcard" for the Dot Earth blog of The New York Times. More on tigers in the wild here:
Panthera's Web site:

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Turning the Tide for Tigers

  1. 1. Turning the Tide for Tigers – A Dot Earth “Postcard” from Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of the conservation organization Panthera A local, dominant male tiger resting in a pond in India’s Kaziranga National Park.I recently flew to Bangkok to join many of the world’s leading tiger experts, law enforcement specialistsand my closest peers to assess the state of tigers and map out the conservation actions required to ensurethe long term survival of the species.Two years ago, during the International Forum for Tiger Conservation in St. Petersburg, unattended byPanthera, grand promises including a ‘new’ $330 million dollar pledge for tiger conservation were madeby international NGOs, governments, political leaders, celebrities and others (much of which had alreadybeen designated for tiger projects). Today, as suspected, few of these resources have reached or impactedconservation projects, and tiger populations are still hemorrhaging.Inhabiting less than 7% of its historic range, the tiger has experienced the greatest range collapse of anylarge cat and is now one of the most endangered large mammals on earth. Numbering in the tens ofthousands at the beginning of the 20th century, the most optimistic, current estimates of the world’s wildtiger population hovers below 3,200 individuals. Along with habitat loss and overhunting of tiger prey byhumans, the most catastrophic tiger losses are caused by rampant poaching to feed the insatiable demandfor tiger skins and other body parts that are sold on the illegal wildlife market throughout southeast Asia.To stop the bleeding, I, in collaboration with one of Panthera’s founding Board members, J. MichaelCline, and a group of the world’s foremost experts on tigers from the Wildlife Conservation Societylaunched the Tigers Forever program in 2006 to increase tiger numbers at key sites by 50% over ten years(this program is now implemented by Panthera and Save the Tiger Fund). To achieve and evaluate ourprogress towards this goal, Panthera hosts a Tigers Forever conference each year, convening a suite of
  2. 2. existing and potential partners from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Fauna & Flora International,Zoological Society of London, Aaranyak, Wildlife Institute of India and other organizations to pour overthe most recent findings on tiger populations, share conservation strategies, milestones and challenges andstrategically prioritize what is needed on the ground, now, to save tigers.Focusing heavily on lawenforcement, measurementand monitoring, this year’s6th Tigers Forever meetinghas produced tremendousresults from open, harsh andinsightful discussions aboutour successes and failures. InThailand’s Huai Kha KhaengWildlife Sanctuary, where Iconducted the first fieldresearch on Indochinesetigers and other big cats inthe 1990s, our partners at theWildlife ConservationSociety have found that Local villagers supported by Panthera and Hyderabad Tiger Conservationbuilding stronger, local Society remove wire snares in India’s Kawaal Tiger Reserveinformant networks andramping up unpredictable, frontline enforcement patrols in vulnerable areas has significantly increasedearly detection and arrests for tiger poaching. These efforts are helping to grow tiger populations andwe’re seeing an expansion of the tigers’ use of habitat in the region. We’re seeing similar, encouragingresults in other Tigers Forever project sites in Indonesia, Malaysia, and India.Coupling the expertise of global tiger scientists and law enforcement authorities, conservation strategiesand outcomes are being improved by analyzing global environmental enforcement, trends in cross-bordertrade, corruption, and social and economic incentives and disincentives for both poachers and patrolmembers. The Tigers Forever team is assessing the impact of patrol leadership on efficacy, examining thesuccess of foot versus motorized patrols, and outlining crucial logistics for anti-poaching activities, suchas cooperative poaching raids made with multiple NGOs and government agencies to ensure jurisdictioncoverage, apprehensions and convictions. In Northeast India’s Namdapha Tiger Reserve, long considered an ‘empty forest’ due to widespread poaching, Tigers Forever camera trap surveys carried out with Aaranyak and regional partners have also revealed the first ever photos of a tiger, left, along with new record photos of over 30 mammal species. Pantheras local partner in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society, has also worked with the Government to establish tiger reserve status for Kawaal Wildlife Sanctuary. In
  3. 3. India’s Western Ghats, Panthera is working with Karnataka state officials and the Nature ConservationFoundation to reduce habitat fragmentation of tiger reserves and institute enhanced social security andwelfare measures for forest guards.This year, thousands of Panthera’s high-tech digital camera traps, now in the 4th generation, areadditionally being manufactured and deployed to Tigers Forever project sites across Asia to help identify,monitor and measure trends in the world’s remaining tiger populations.Of all the big cats, we are undoubtedly in full crisis-mode when it comes to saving tigers. But hoperemains for the species because of programs like Tigers Forever, which are constantly and vigorouslyimproving conservation actions by maintaining transparency, working in partnerships, using the bestpossible science and investing in the best possible human capital, including scientists, guards, parkwardens, and informant networks, who are part of a growing conservation community committed toensuring that tigers exist now, and long into the future.View Panthera’s Tiger Infographic.